Author Archives: Gina Orsino

YPrime Announces Additions to Executive Team

May 26, 2022

YPrime, LLC, a global leader in cloud-based eClinical solutions, announces the addition of two key members to its executive team—Mohan Ganesan, Chief Financial Officer and Alison O’Neill, Chief Operating Officer.

As chief financial officer, Mohan Ganesan provides financial and strategic guidance to the company and partners with our investors and executive team to drive investments appropriately. Mohan provides financial oversight and leads the development of standardized business metrics for finance, accounting, business operations, and human resource functions.

As chief operating officer, Alison O’Neill oversees the departments responsible for project management and quality delivery of YPrime’s products and services. With more than 35 years of clinical research experience beginning as a bench chemist in the pharmaceutical industry, Ali has held executive roles in global organizations providing technology solutions to the industry.

“It’s a real privilege to add these two experienced leaders to our executive team,” says Shawn Blackburn, CEO, YPrime. “We have always been about ensuring an optimal experience for sponsors, sites, and patients. Under Mohan’s leadership, we will be able to make strategic decisions about investments that will serve our clients’ ever-evolving needs and measure the impact of our business. Ali’s depth of expertise allows us to continue enhancing our products, processes, and services to meet the needs of these crucial stakeholders throughout a clinical trial.”

Quest Diagnostics Adds Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Through its Patient Service Centers in Collaboration with IRIS

April 4, 2022

New Capability Enables Individuals Identified as High-Risk by Participating Health Plans to Access Screening through a Quest Diagnostics Site

Builds on Quest’s Extended Care Services to Improve Care Quality and Outcomes in Diabetes and Other Chronic Diseases

Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX), the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information services, today announced a collaboration with IRIS (Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems) to deliver diabetic retinal imaging services through designated Quest Diagnostics patient service centers across the United States to aid in screening patients for retinal assessment by a healthcare provider. The collaboration aims to increase convenience and improve screening rates for diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in the United Statesi, for members of population health management programs sponsored by health plans.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-third of patients with diabetes over 40 years old have diabetic retinopathy.ii Screening to aid early detection and treatment may help prevent the disease from progressing to blindness.iii While an annual diabetic retinal screening is medically recommended for patients with diabetes, barriers to care can limit access to this service.

In 2018, Quest Diagnostics, through its Quest HealthConnect (QHC) business, began to provide diabetic retinal imaging for use in screening using the IRIS platform. This platform involves the use of a portable, handheld camera that captures a patient’s retinal images as part of its risk evaluation and care services for participating health plan members. The new collaboration with IRIS extends the use of the IRIS platform at Quest’s patient service centers.

New service builds on Quest’s vision to aid in closing gaps in care for patients with diabetes
The new service expands on the Quest Diagnostics Extended Care portfolio of services designed to facilitate access to care beyond traditional healthcare settings. These services feature home-based risk assessment and monitoring tools through Quest HealthConnect and coaching for chronic conditions through Pack Health, which Quest Diagnostics acquired in January 2022. It also includes services provided by Quest Healthcare Analytics, which utilizes the company’s database of 60 billion laboratory test results to help identify and engage at-risk members for health plans to close screening gaps and improve care quality and outcomes.

With training developed by IRIS, designated personnel at Quest patient service centers will transmit a patient’s retinal image to a credentialed, licensed ophthalmologist to interpret the images. The IRIS Program returns a diagnostic and patient report to Quest HealthConnect. The results are also transmitted to the health plan as well as the patient’s primary care physician or eye specialist for follow-up diagnosis and care.

“Limited access to important screenings has allowed the undetected, sight-threatening progression of diabetic retinopathy to grow,” said Christopher Grant, Vice President & General Manager, Quest HealthConnect. “Through this collaboration with IRIS, we can now provide a new opportunity to help prevent sight loss. Leveraging our network of patient service centers will increase access to screenings for many, ultimately leading to better health outcomes.”

IRIS is thrilled to be joined by Quest Diagnostics, the nation’s leading provider of diagnostic information services, to help mitigate preventable blindness,” said Steve MartinIRIS CEO. “Through this expanded care network, it will make it much easier to reach the estimated 60% of people with diabetes that are currently skipping their annual diabetic retinopathy check.iv

Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina and can lead to vision loss or blindness in diabetics. Early detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy is crucial to slowing disease progression and preventing patients from losing their eyesight.


YPrime Acquires Tryl, a Patient Engagement Solutions Company, Adding More Capabilities to Support Decentralized Clinical Trials

February 9, 2022

Malvern, PA, February 8, 2022 – YPrime, LLC, a global leader in cloud-based eClinical solutions, announced today the strategic acquisition of Tryl, a software development company with a unique patient engagement solution that brings together beautiful design, dynamic personalization, and applied behavioral science that is designed to boost engagement, reduce dropouts, and deliver outcomes in clinical trials. The acquisition includes the transfer of all staff, development capabilities, and intellectual properties to YPrime, and will integrate with YPrime’s Patient Engagement Technologies solutions.

“YPrime’s major priority has always been to anticipate the needs of tomorrow’s clinical trials and create powerful eClinical tools that simplify the lives of sponsors, sites, and patients,” says Shawn Blackburn, CEO, YPrime. “This combination with Tryl helps us leap ahead in fulfilling our vision of creating the industry’s first-of-its-kind solution to help keep patients more informed and engaged throughout the entire clinical trial process, especially as our industry accelerates toward decentralized clinical trial models.”

“An ever-increasing focus on patient centricity demands an integrated approach to how patients are engaged,” says Ian Greenfield, CEO of Tryl. “This starts from the moment patients are recruited and continues throughout the entire patient journey. YPrime has a strong vision for the future and by bringing together offerings from our two companies, we can create a novel solution that takes head on the most pressing challenges associated with attracting, engaging, and retaining patients.”

Tryl’s tools provide an experience that is personalized, predictive, empathetic, and relative to the overall patient journey. Tryl’s proprietary engagement score is designed to reduce patient dropout rates. Rooted in consumer experience, the Tryl team applies proven behavioral principles from other industries (such as professional sports and consumer finance) to seek to improve patient adherence to study protocols.

Mark Maietta, President, YPrime expressed his enthusiasm, “The addition of the Tryl team and their innovative solutions will boost patient compliance and reduce attrition, and the timing is perfect.  YPrime has built an enviable market position with its strong eCOA and IRT capabilities. Now we can seamlessly layer on complementary solutions to our innovative technology stack for running successful decentralized trials.”

About Tryl

Tryl applies a consumer-grade UX and proven behavioral techniques like design thinking, empathy, and social proof, to increase study compliance and guide participants through complex protocols. Predictive analytics prompt clinicians to step in before subjects drop out. This approach minimizes participants’ burden while maximizing value for sponsors and researchers.

Tampa music tech company clinches $37M

January 10, 2022

By:  Jay Cridlin – Tampa Bay Times

A business that’s spent more than 15 years growing in and around Tampa’s music scene has raked in $37 million in its latest round of fundraising.

Symphonic Distribution, a music distribution and streaming-focused tech firm based in downtown Tampa, closed its Series B round in late 2021, with Philadelphia’s NewSpring Capital leading the way. Tampa’s Ballast Point Ventures, which led the company’s $4 million Series A fundraising in 2017, also participated.

“We just felt like there’s so much capital out there that now would be a good time to explore some opportunities,” Symphonic CEO Jorge Brea said. “Thankfully that worked out.”

In a statement, NewSpring partner Brian Kim said Symphonic’s technology “offers independent artists the tools needed to supercharge their careers and expand their reach.

“We’ve been impressed for a long time with what Jorge and the team are building at Symphonic,” Kim said, “everything from their patented technology to their incessant focus on putting the independent artist first.”

Brea founded Symphonic in Wesley Chapel in 2006, working with independent artists both local and national to get their music onto streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, as well as distributing it through more traditional, physical means. The company sponsored local concerts in Tampa Bay and showcases at South By Southwest, among other ventures, and expanded to an office of nearly 30 in downtown Tampa. Today, the company has dozens of employees in New York, Nashville, Los Angeles, South America, Europe and Africa.

Even as parts of the music industry shut down during the pandemic, there was still “a lot of excitement and interest in this space,” Brea said, with publishing companies shelling out huge sums for music rights, and firms making hefty investments in Symphonic competitors like DistroKid and United Masters.

“There’s a good runway for the music industry to keep going,” he said.

With the $37 million investment, Brea plans to hire, doubling his technology staff to 20 or even 30, and adding A&R representatives to work the music side of the business. Symphonic might explore acquisitions of complementary companies in Europe to expand its footprint in the music-tech space.

The company is also keeping an eye on the nascent NFT world and what blockchain technologies could mean for the world of music distribution.

“For us, we’re not looking to build a marketplace, but rather work with key artists, maybe ones that have a certain level of traction, to partner up with various exchanges and just help coordinate drops and market them,” Brea said. “We’re wanting to keep an open mind and be able to work with many artists, but be selective in the process, as well as work with many exchanges, just because there’s so many of them now.”

Before the pandemic, Symphonic had looked at expanding its downtown Tampa footprint. Those plans have scaled back as the company has adopted more of a hybrid work model. But with this latest infusion of out-of-state capital, they have all sorts of options.

“I’ve loved Tampa ever since I moved here in ‘92,” Brea said, “and just to be a part of this city and be able to help put more business eyes on it as well is a very, very awesome thing.”

Exclusive: Tampa’s Ballast Point Ventures closes fourth fund $35 million over target

January 5, 2022
By:  Lauren Coffey

       Tampa Bay Business Journal


Tampa-based investment firm Ballast Point Ventures has closed its latest fund with $190 million in commitments.

The firm’s initial goal for its fourth fund was $165 million, which it closed in January 2021. But interest from investors, both old and new alike, continued to climb.

Institutional investors, family offices and about 50 entrepreneurs participated in the fourth fund, with roughly 100 total investors.

An oversubscribed fund is not particularly unique for Ballast Point, which oversubscribed nearly $25 million in its third fund in 2015. Partner Drew Graham said anything below $200 million is “key” to sticking to the company’s strategy. That strategy means investing in three to four companies per year, with investments that run between $5 million to $15 million.

It’s a strategy that helps Ballast Point stand out, according to partner Paul Johan.

“The companies that aren’t ready for a $15 million to $20 million round can be in a position for a $5 million check, and we don’t have to pressure them to take more capital,” Johan said. “A lot in the region we don’t see competing in that size, the $5 million to $8 million [rounds]. It’s where we’ve been the last five years, and it’s positioned us well.”

Ballast Point was founded in 2001 and has partnered with over 50 companies across its four funds. It invests in companies across the Southeast. The firm primarily focuses on technology and health care, which have seen upticks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have companies that were largely impacted [by Covid-19], mainly on the health care side,” said Matt Rice, a partner at Ballast Point who leads the health care practice. “The good thing about having a diversified portfolio, a big chunk is software and technology — which benefitted during the pandemic. … Like a lot of entrepreneurs, we also had to adapt in order to get to a successful outcome.”

Rice added remote patient care is a trend Ballast Point is following. Partner Robert Faber, who focuses on technology, said he has some trends to focus on with the new fund.

“We’re big believers in data to make decisions; we spend a lot of time in cybersecurity,” Faber said. “Any business-to-business tool which simplifies and takes the frustration out of the process.”

Ballast Point has already begun deploying capital from its fourth fund, investing in four Florida companies over the last year:

“All four being in Florida is huge for us,” Partner Sean Barkman said. “And hopefully, we’ll end up with a majority of companies in Florida in this next fund.”

Leading Music Technology Platform and Distributor Symphonic Raises $37M, Led by NewSpring and Ballast Point Ventures

January 4, 2022 – Starting the new year off on a high note, leading independent music distributor and technology platform Symphonic Distribution announces that it has received a $37M Series B investment. Led by NewSpring and Ballast Point Ventures, the new investment comes on the heels of funding announcements by other industry participants, further solidifying investor interest in music technology and distribution.

The financial milestone follows a string of exciting announcements for Symphonic, including partnerships with TIDAL and Joyner Lucas’s music start-up, Tully, as well as expansions into Africa and Mexico. Headquartered in Florida and with international presence in Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Spain and more, Symphonic remains a 100% independent distribution and music technology company that continues to work with some of today’s most unique and innovative artists.

Given its Tampa location, Ballast Point Ventures has worked closely with the team at Symphonic since its Series A investment in 2017.

“Watching Jorge and Taylor scale a homegrown Tampa technology company in the fast-growing music industry has been very impressive.  We are excited to continue as their partner for this next leg of growth, and we are further excited to welcome NewSpring to the investor group as Symphonic prepares for its future growth.” – Robert Faber, Partner, Ballast Point Ventures

NewSpring Growth, NewSpring’s dedicated growth and expansion strategy, partners with industry-transforming, fast-growing companies with talented, innovative management teams to support their growth, and Symphonic represents exactly the type of company the strategy targets for investment.

“As the global trend toward streaming continues to guide the future of the music industry, Symphonic’s distribution platform offers independent artists the tools needed to supercharge their careers and expand their reach. We’ve been impressed for a long time with what Jorge and the team are building at Symphonic, everything from their patented technology to their incessant focus on putting the independent artist first. We look forward to working closely with Jorge and Ballast Point Ventures to broaden its offering and help Symphonic reach even higher levels of growth.” – Brian Kim, Partner, NewSpring

Founded in 2006 by music producer Jorge Brea, Symphonic provides global digital music and video distribution through a comprehensive and best-in-class technology platform, marketing planning and strategy, including playlist support, and a comprehensive suite of services for artists, record labels, managers, and distributors. Symphonic has worked with clients such as Surf Mesa, Stick Figure, CloZee, Laura Marano, Rachel Bradshaw, El Alfa, Juan Luis Guerra, Pi’erre Bourne, DJ Nu-Mark, Doechii, Nick Murphy aka Chet Faker, and La Ross Maria among many others across a wide variety of genres worldwide.

“On behalf of all of the team members of Symphonic, I can’t put into words how excited we are about the next chapter. The partnership with NewSpring, along with our existing investor,  Ballast Point Ventures, will help position Symphonic as a strong market leader in independent music technology, services and distribution. This investment will enable us to invest more in our clients, our technology platform, strategic initiatives, intellectual property and other acquisitions.” – Jorge Brea, CEO, Symphonic

About NewSpring

NewSpring partners with the innovators, makers, and operators of high-performing companies in dynamic industries to catalyze new growth and seize compelling opportunities. The Firm manages approximately $2.5 billion across five distinct strategies covering the spectrum from growth equity and control buyouts to mezzanine debt. Having invested in over 175 companies, NewSpring brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and resources to take growing companies to the next level and beyond. Partnering with management teams to help develop their businesses into market leaders, NewSpring identifies opportunities and builds relationships using its network of industry leaders and influencers across a wide array of operational areas and industries. To learn more, visit

About Ballast Point Ventures

Ballast Point Ventures (“BPV”), headquartered in Tampa, Florida, is a later-stage venture capital and growth equity fund founded in 2002 to provide expansion capital for rapidly growing, privately owned companies, with a particular emphasis on companies located in Florida, the Southeast and Texas. The BPV partners have more than 80 years of combined experience investing in and building high-growth companies in several industries, including software, technology-enabled business services, and healthcare. Ballast Point Ventures has over $500 million under management across four Funds and seeks to make initial equity investments ranging in size from $5 million to $15 million. For additional information, visit



Prepaid Technologies Secures $96 Million Growth Round Led by Edison Partners

November 2, 2021

Source:  Cision PRWeb

Prepaid Technologies, a Birmingham, Ala.-based provider of prepaid digital payment solutions, today announced raising $96 million in new growth financing. Edison Partners, the growth equity firm, led the transaction, and StepStone Group (which recently acquired venture capital platform Greenspring Associates) co-led. Stifel Venture Bank, a Division of Stifel Bank, and Top Tier Capital Partners also participated. The company will use the proceeds to accelerate its market expansion and continue to advance its category-leading technology payments platform and customer-focused prepaid solutions.

Analysts estimate $120 trillion in business payments are still check-based, and service providers are fragmented across multiple vendors for verticals such as payroll, rewards, purchasing and disbursement. These four opportunities alone represent $80 billion addressable markets, growing at more than 10% annually and accelerating with the proliferation of smartphones, e-commerce, and digitized payments since the pandemic’s onset. Prepaid Technologies enables its customers to access and customize B2B and B2C payments across these segments with a unified innovative fintech partner with a focus on the consumer and end user experience.

“Prepaid Technologies is making it easy for businesses to transform their outdated disbursement, payroll, and purchasing processes with real-time digital payments across niche categories where competitors don’t have the same level of depth or expertise,” said Jennifer Lee, Partner, Edison Partners, who co-led the investment.

“This is a unique product offering, where a company can access and customize different payment solutions in a one-stop shop. We’re impressed with Stephen Faust and the management team’s ability to remain capital-efficient while growing organically and profitably. We look forward to working with them as they execute on their vision,” added Lee. “Modern payroll and expense management for remote workforces continues to see strong traction through the last 18 months. B2B payments are also trending higher as companies opt for disbursement solutions that make it easier and safer to deliver corporate funds. These tailwinds bode particularly well for the company’s growth and provide a moat for adjunct product opportunities.”

Prepaid Technologies has seen over 15,000% straight-line growth in its load value. Revenue has increased 9x over five years since the company raised its only round of outside capital, $5 million in 2016 through Ballast Point Ventures. The company has delivered a clear product-market fit with 1,700 customers and 450 active partners including banks, payroll processors, payment providers, such as FIS, emergent fintechs including digital banking platforms, enterprise technology companies, marketing, health and wellness payments processors, and merchant services providers.

Recent launches include the MyDashCard app and dashPerks, a cardholder cashback rewards program. Prepaid Technologies also enjoys strong retention metrics with notable blue-chip customers like Lowes, Taco Bell, Nissan, and Sony. The company is also seeing tremendous growth in its disbursements product which businesses use to pay their vendors electronically.

“We purpose-built our platform to create a turnkey way for companies to configure payments solutions across their enterprise however they operate. Clients access payments through our dashboard technology or integrate solutions into their workflows through our robust API suite. We’re laser-focused on productization and customization that will help to transition more companies to card-based and digital solutions. With this investment, and with Edison Partners’ expertise and experience, we can focus on investing in our current solutions, accelerating our industry footprint and expanding our suite of offerings to ensure our customers and partners achieve their goals,” said Stephen Faust, CEO, Prepaid Technologies.

“Loyalty payments and refund programs present an enormous niche opportunity. There is both a programmatic vertical opportunity and underserved community opportunity. Prepaid Technologies has an incredible load volume and data set, and the management team has deep banking and payments expertise, which we’re confident will bode well for the company’s continued growth and deliver value to customers and partners around the globe,” said Chris Sugden, Managing Partner, Edison Partners. Sugden will join the board of directors.

Recognized by LendIt Fintech as Fintech Equity Investor of the Year, Edison Partners has financed and guided more than 50 private fintech market leaders. The firm’s current active portfolio includes Bipsync, ComplySci, Fund That Flip, GAN Integrity, Giant Oak, GoHenry, Houwzer, MoneyLion, Nuula, Yieldstreet, and Zelis.

The investment in Prepaid Technologies is Edison Partners’ first investment in Alabama and is the firm’s third growth financing in an underserved market this year following investments in Boulder, Colorado-based The Pros Closet and Houston, Texas-based MacroFab.

About Prepaid Technologies
Prepaid Technologies is the fintech solution and payments program manager for more than 1,700 customers, providing innovative digital payment solutions including payroll, expense, gift, reward and incentive card products to employers, financial institutions, and government agencies. Learn more at

About Edison Partners
For 35 years, Edison Partners has been helping CEOs and their executive teams grow and scale successful companies. The firm’s investment team brings extensive investing and operating experience to each investment. Through a unique combination of growth capital and the Edison Edge platform, consisting of operating centers of excellence, the Edison Director Network, and executive education programs, Edison employs a truly integrated approach to accelerating growth and creating value for businesses. A team of experts in enterprise solutions, financial technology, and healthcare IT sectors, Edison targets high-growth companies located outside Silicon Valley with $10 to $30 million in revenue; investments also include buyouts, recapitalizations, spinouts and secondary stock purchases.

Edison’s active portfolio has created aggregated market value exceeding $10 billion. Edison Partners is based in Princeton, NJ and manages more than $2 billion in assets.

 Link to article

Key Data Raises $5M Series B from Ballast Point Ventures

October 4, 2021

Ballast Point Ventures announced a $5 million Series B investment in Key Data Dashboard (“Key Data”), which provides benchmark and comparative market performance data for the vacation and short-term rental industries. Key Data’s platform integrates directly with property management systems to collect real-time reservation and booking data from 400,000 properties around the globe.

“As a former property manager, I understood firsthand the difficulty of obtaining accurate and real-time pricing data across a varied property portfolio,” said Key Data Chief Executive Officer, Jason Sprenkle. “We were determined to solve this problem for property managers with comprehensive and accurate real-time data.”

Sprenkle continued, “We are excited to bring an institutional investor into our company and are eager to get to work with Ballast Point Ventures. We look forward to this next leg of the journey and to continue to deliver a comprehensive solution to our many customers.”

According to a press release, “[Key Data’s] benchmarking and business intelligence dashboards aggregate proprietary, directly sourced data, providing historical, real-time, and forward-looking market data for customers seeking to understand hospitality trends for any given global market. Key Data will use the investment to accelerate development of its technology and product platform, add to its sales and marketing efforts, and for general corporate purposes.”

Related: Key Data Raises $2.4 million in Series A

“As BPV has gotten to know Jason over the last several years, we’ve been very impressed with the growth and success that Key Data has been able to achieve with minimal outside investment,” said Ballast Point Ventures partner Robert Faber who will join Key Data’s board of directors. “Given our focus on partnering with rapidly growing private companies with great management teams in the Southeast and Florida, in particular, Key Data is a great fit for us.”

“We are excited to partner with Jason, Scott McLeod, Dan Haligas, and the entire Key Data team to drive continued growth and solidify the platform’s position as the leading provider of accurate, real-time vacation rental data,” Faber added. “Given some of the dynamics brought on by the pandemic, we believe that the work-from-anywhere trend is likely to make short-term rental data an even more important part of the picture for travel and hospitality markets.”

Key Data has raised $7.4 million to date and recently won the 2021 Technology Innovation Award sponsored by Expedia Group at the 3rd Annual Data and Revenue Management (DARM) Conference.


Carterra Takes Part in “Dousing the Pandemic’s Flames”

August 5, 2021

Source:  GEN – Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Neutralizing antibodies represent an important class of therapeutics that could provide immediate benefit in the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 or as a passive prophylaxis before vaccination. Passive prophylaxis also could be an alternative to vaccination in populations where vaccines have been found to be less efficacious.1

When AbCellera became a participant in DARPA’s P3 (Pandemic Prevention Platform) program in 2018, the aim was to build a pandemic-ready, rapid response, antibody discovery platform capable of developing field-ready medical countermeasures within 60 days of isolation of an unknown viral pathogen. At the time, AbCellera didn’t know that within two years its platform and team would be mobilized to react in record time to a real-life global health scenario, the COVID-19 pandemic.

In every person’s body, billions of antibodies exist, each with unique properties and functions. AbCellera’s full-stack AI-powered antibody discovery platform deeply searches natural immune responses to identify antibodies with desired properties such as virus neutralization, safety, longevity, and manufacturability.

The company’s mission is to make its technology stack available and to empower all antibody-based drug discovery programs. To date, the technology stack has been used in over 100 programs to address a wide range of indications in addition to COVID-19 and other infectious disease.

Putting a plan into action

At the end of February 2020, AbCellera obtained a single blood sample from a recovered COVID-19 patient. Close to six million peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were screened in three days, and thousands of therapeutic antibody potentials eventually narrowed to a final subset of 500 unique antibodies that recognized the interaction between the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein’s receptor binding domain (RBD) and the angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) cellular receptor.

These candidates underwent extensive analysis and characterization—approximately 500 data points per molecule. An important aspect of the technology stack is the machine learning/artificial intelligence (ML/AI) tool that allows analysis of large data clouds comprised of approximately 250,000 data points for this data set.

“We were able to visualize the analysis and down selection process using our custom in-house visualization software, Celium,” said Ester Falconer, PhD, chief technology officer at AbCellera, who led the AI-powered antibody discovery platform’s development.

Bryan Jones, PhD, senior research fellow at Eli Lilly and Company, co-led most of the discovery activities that took place at Lilly, in close partnership with AbCellera. His group played a large role analyzing and transitioning the initially discovered set of hundreds of antibodies—through selection, production, and characterization of a narrowed set of antibodies—that ultimately led to the identification of LY-CoV555 (bamlanivimab) for clinical development.

This image depicts LY-CoV555 (bamlanivimab), an antibody that engages the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s spike protein, and thereby blocks the RBD’s interaction with the host cell’s angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor. Notice that three LY-CoV555 Fab fragments bind to one spike trimer. LY-CoV555 was discovered by AbCellera Biologics, which is developing the antibody with Eli Lilly and Company.

“Due to the rapidly evolving and geographically diverse nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, continued scientific innovation remains critical to develop additional treatments,” said Jones, who adds that Lilly remains committed to developing complementary neutralizing antibodies to address potential SARS-CoV-2 variants that undoubtedly will arise. Currently, a next-generation antibody, LY-CoV1404, is in the preclinical pipeline.

Eli Lilly and Company is developing neutralizing antibodies that can address SARS-CoV-2 variants. One such antibody is LY-CoV1404, which Lilly is developing in collaboration with AbCellera Biologics. LY-CoV1404 is a next-generation antibody, and it has entered clinical trials in patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19. Lilly has expanded its ongoing BLAZE-4 trials to evaluate LY-CoV1404 alone and together with other monoclonal antibodies.

Intense pressure and challenges

“Our platform and the extended team were ready,” said Falconer. “But in reality, this was a new virus that the world was racing against. We had no experience with it and did not know what type of immune response it would elicit. To develop an antibody database to mine, we had only one blood sample from one of the first recovered patients in the United States.

“Plus, this was an early immune response. The blood was drawn 20 days after onset of symptoms. It was not clear what we were going to find. We had one shot, it had to work, and it had to be the fastest discovery ever. The pandemic-ready platform and team had to deliver.”

The speed at which things needed to progress was the biggest challenge. “Because of the urgency,” Jones recalled, “we were making decisions based on little data and testing a new virus, while simultaneously trying to coordinate these activities across multiple organizations ranging from Lilly and AbCellera, to the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to the numerous academic collaborators who were providing critical data.”

All of these efforts played out against a backdrop of everyone trying to learn how to work nearly completely remotely.

Antibodies were characterized deeply to ensure that any data points that could direct the team in the right direction would not be overlooked. The number of data points per antibody highlights the importance of the visualization software Celium and the infrastructure AbCellera developed to generate, aggregate, and process the data. High-stakes decision making was made in real time.

The discovery efforts, which have been detailed in Science Translational Medicine, included the rapid identification and characterization of the potent anti-spike neutralizing antibody, LYCoV555, derived from PBMCs isolated from a patient after recovery from COVID-19.1

The Carterra LSA, a high-throughput monoclonal antibody characterization platform, combines microfluidic flow technology and high-throughput surface plasmon resonance detection. The LSA helped AbCellera and Eli Lilly and Company evaluate binding affinity and epitope coverage for over 500 patient-derived antibodies including LY-CoV555. In this image, the LSA is being operated by Josh Eckman, founder and CEO of Carterra, and Rebecca Rich, PhD, a senior scientist at the company.

It takes a village

“With the right team and technology, what seems impossible is achievable. With Lilly, we broke the mold for the fastest discovery through IND for any drug, challenging the current drug development process,” Falconer said. “It does not need to take years and years. Nearly six million cells were screened in three days, antibody genes were sequenced in an additional two days, and antibodies were generated and tested a week later—an incredible feat.”

“There really was not a tremendous difference in the workflow of discovery, clinical development, and manufacturing, except that everyone was singularly focused,” Jones added. “But a key difference was partnership with the FDA to identify innovative approaches to get treatments to patients as quickly as possible. We learned that a large and committed group of people concentrated on a sole objective can do amazing things.”

Pandemics are unpredictable

Bamlanivimab proceeded from sample to Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in just over eight months, a groundbreaking achievement in the development of antibody therapeutics. In November 2020, the FDA granted an EUA for bamlanivimab alone, and subsequently granted an EUA in February 2021 for bamlanivimab together with etesevimab (LY-CoV016), for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kg) with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing, and who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization.

Due to the sustained increase of SARS-CoV-2 variants that are resistant to bamlanivimab alone, Lilly requested and received in April 2021 a revocation of the EUA for bamlanivimab used alone. The EUA remains in effect for the combined use of bamlanivimab and etesevimab.

Enabling technology

The Carterra LSA facilitated the rapid kinetic characterization of the selected recombinantly expressed antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and the RBD.

Spike protein–dependent viral entry is initiated by upward movement of the RBD at the apex of the protein, allowing access to bind the ACE2 cellular receptor. Upon receptor engagement, coordinated proteolytic cleavage and shedding of the S1 subunit occur, and conformational rearrangement of the S2 subunit leads to viral fusion with the cell and transfer of genetic material.1

“The LSA allowed for an extensive epitope analysis to be performed on the antibody panel which demonstrated broad epitope coverage, distinct classification into known binder categories such as S1 and S2, and the determination of neutralization of ACE2 binding,” said Dan Bedinger, PhD,  applications scientist team lead at Carterra.

These assessments were key elements in the ranking and selection of the subset of leads for further characterization.

The ability to rapidly complete these analyses in a parallel, unattended fashion with minute amounts of recombinant antigen—a scarce and valuable resource—made it possible to characterize the full candidate panel in an extremely accelerated development timeline, 90 days from initiation to first in human.

According to Bedinger, no other bioanalytical platform could have provided this rich picture of epitope binning classification, a picture that delivered a deep understanding of the interaction between sequence diversity and epitope recognition.

Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium

As variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge, Carterra is collaborating with the Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium (CoVIC), a Gates Foundation–sponsored program. CoVIC has collected nearly 300 antibodies from a wide variety of sources that target the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

In a highly interdisciplinary effort across many institutions, these antibodies are being evaluated for a variety of properties including viral neutralization and escape, effector function, epitope recognition, and binding specificity. The LSA is being utilized to characterize the relative binding of each antibody to a variety of spike mutants and to create a comprehensive epitope binning profile.

“Data show that these antibodies can be clustered into epitope communities which map to various regions or faces of the spike protein when analyzed by cryo-EM,” said Bedinger. “Clones within these communities often share properties like neutralization and binding sensitivities to certain types of mutations.”

With a high-throughput approach, new antibodies can be rapidly binned into relevant communities and compared against the existing antibody population to understand their novelty and to predict their behavior.



Why entrepreneurs find Tampa Bay the right place to grow and realize their dreams

August 3, 2021

Source:  Visit Tampa Bay

As with many entrepreneurs, Founder and CEO Jorge Brea’s dreams took root in his childhood home. He started Symphonic Distribution in a spare bedroom of his parents’ house in 2006.

Symphonic helps independent artists and record labels get their music on streaming platforms and into the ears of listeners around the world.

In addition to being named to the Billboard magazine Indie Power Players list in 2018 and 2019, Brea has now grown his digital music services company to a team of over 50 passionate people in Tampa, Brooklyn, Denver, Nashville and Bogota, Colombia.

And while Brea’s vision and drive paved his way, Tampa Bay provided a supportive and thriving location in which to make his dreams a reality — and give them ample room to grow.

“I think Tampa is getting more creative and becoming a technology hub. It’s great to see new entrepreneurs and different types of business come into the area,” Brea says.

Ranked a best place to live

Tampa Bay’s quality of life earned it a spot on the 2019 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Places to Live list, and it was named a community where it’s cheaper to buy a home than to rent. Plus, Money magazine named Tampa Bay the Best Big City in the Southeast in 2015, and in 2018, WalletHub ranked Tampa Bay one of the top communities in Florida to start a business.

“Billions of dollars in public and private investment are transforming the way Tampa Bay works, lives and plays. Coming over the horizon, we have the building of new office space, major funding for tech incubators and loads of new options for urban living,” says Santiago C. Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay.

Millions in venture capital

“Tampa Bay combines a welcoming, small-town feel with the amenities of a major American city,” Corrada says. “It’s easy for newcomers to find their niche here. Tech startups, nonprofits, restaurants and entertainment — entrepreneurs from nearly every industry sector quickly discover that Tampa Bay residents reward creativity and vision with time and money — including millions in venture capital.”

Brea of Symphonic Distribution knows that firsthand. In 2017, equity firm Ballast Point Ventures put $4 million into the Tampa Bay-based firm, which also offers design, audio mastering, marketing, merchandising and licensing services. Brea says that funding has helped him hire senior staff the company needs to become increasingly competitive, and raise Symphonic’s profile even further, around the world.

“To say that we’re headquartered here and that we have global presence and global clients, including real superstars that are platinum artists, I think really does help shine a big light into what’s happening with Tampa and its development,” Brea says.

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